[EDITORIALS]Genome a signal to KoreaThe genetic blueprint for human beings has been virtually completed. The Human Genome Project, the international effort involving scientists from the United States, Britain and four other countries, was declared officially complete yesterday with the sequencing of the 3.1 billion units of the human genome. Since presenting a “working draft” of the genome three years ago, the scientists have filled in the gaps in the human genome, particularly units near the end of DNA, which are very difficult to sequence.
About 3,000 scientists participated in the Human Genome Project, which began in 1990 and cost $2.7 billion. The completion of the project is truly an occasion to celebrate. We expect cancer and other incurable diseases will be conquered soon with the knowledge from the sequencing project.
The progress of bioengineering is truly astonishing. What this science requires of us, however, is not astonishment but also aggressiveness. None of the human genome was sequenced by Korean scientists. American and British scientists identified 90 percent of the sequences. The United States and Britain as well as other advanced industrialized countries are leading research efforts in biotechnology in addition to information technology.
Still, bioengineering is a subject that fits well with the psyche of the Korean people. Instead of huge facilities and innovative ideas, bioengineering requires steadfastness that holds scientists in research labs night after night and dexterity of craftsmen. The recent approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of a new antibiotic developed by South Korea’s LG Life Sciences shows our possibilities. The approval was a first by a South Korean bioengineering company.
The problem lies in the failure of our society to encourage our youth to enter the field of biotechnology. More and more talented students apply to medical schools instead of studies in natural sciences or engineering. This is a serious tragedy for the country. There cannot be free-riders in the progress of science and technology. A national-level effort to promote bioengineering is in order.